Trump Today: Fallout from wiretap accusation

The following article by Martin Finucane was posted on the Boston Globe website March 6, 2017:


Welcome to Trump Today, a one-stop entry point for the latest news on the 45th president of the United States.

Afternoon update

President Donald J. Trump signed the new version of his controversial travel ban. Here’s the text.

The new executive order is almost everything the first was not, but Democrats and some activists say they’ll challenge it anyway, the Globe’s James Pindell writes.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said she’s considering legal options in response to the order.

Key members of Congress said they would investigate Trump’s startling claim that his phones were tapped at the order of former president Obama.

Trump aides defended Trump’s claim, but they wouldn’t say where that information came from and kept open the possibility it wasn’t true.

A former foreign policy adviser to Trump’s campaign says a Senate committee has contacted him about its probe into Russia’s involvement in the election. Carter Page said he would preserve information about his activities relating to Russia.

The morning headlines

Trump is angry and impatient about the lack of progress and the questions about Russian involvement that are dogging his administration. And he hoped to turn the page by unveiling a new travel ban executive order. The original order, which sparked a firestorm of controversy, was blocked by a federal judge. White House officials have said the new order is tailored to pass legal muster.

Trump spent the weekend at his luxurious club in West Palm Beach, Fla., but rocked the political world Saturday with a series of tweets. He asserted, without citing any evidence, that former president Obama had ordered the tapping of Trump’s phones during the campaign. He also called Obama a “bad (or sick) guy!” A Trump spokesman doubled down on Sunday, calling for a congressional inquiry.

The accusation immediately raised the question: Was it based on reality or was it an ill-advised blurt? FBI Director James Comey asked the Justice Department to publicly reject Trump’s assertion, according to reports. An Obama spokesman said the assertion was totally false. And former director of national intelligence James Clapper publicly denied that there had been any such wiretapping.

So where did Trump get the idea from? The White House said it wouldn’t comment further. It appears the source might have been a conspiratorial rant on conservative talk radio, which was picked up by right-leaning Breitbart News. Here’s another look at the possible sources. Check out those stories and this interview makes more sense:

Trump’s anger boiled up late last week when Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from investigations of possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, CNN and ABC reported. The Sessions story eclipsed the positive coverage Trump had gotten after delivering a speech to Congress earlier in the week.

Meanwhile, Trump faced a serious international challenge Sunday evening, with news that North Korea may have fired an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States. North Korea last month had tested another missile on another weekend that Trump was at the Mar-a-Lago club.

Today’s schedule

Trump is keeping a low profile at the White House, with no events on his busy schedule open to the press, even for photo opportunities. And the press briefing, which could be a dramatic one, is off-camera. There is no executive order signing on his schedule, despite the reports that he will sign one.

Trump’s schedule says he will have lunch with Vice President Mike Pence, and meetings with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Aijit Pai, and Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin. He’ll lead a meeting of the National Economic Council and have dinner with Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and the Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price.

What’s he been tweeting?

Here are the tweets on Saturday that caused the furor:

Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!

Is it legal for a sitting President to be “wire tapping” a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!

I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!

How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!

He took potshots at the Obama administration in several other tweets over the weekend, including one that mentioned a 2012 moment when Obama was caught on an open microphone assuring Dmitri Medvedev, who was then president of Russia, that Obama would have more flexibility after his reelection.

Trump also continued his Twitter feud with Arnold Schwarzenegger on Saturday after Schwarzenegger announced he was leaving “The Apprentice.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t voluntarily leaving the Apprentice, he was fired by his bad (pathetic) ratings, not by me. Sad end to great show

Trump returned to the positive in his final tweet on Sunday, thanking the hundreds of people who rallied for him on Saturday around the country. About 75 rallied for him on a cold day in Boston.

Thank you for the great rallies all across the country. Tremendous support. Make America Great Again!

Checking the facts

Trump takes credit for a lot of positive developments since he was inaugurated on Jan. 20. How much does he really deserve? Here’s a look at some of his dubious claims from last week.

More headlines

Trump is telling allies he may hold off, at least temporarily, on his plan to pursue a deal with Russia on the fight against the Islamic State and other issues. Trump and his aides say it’s because of recent Russian provocations, but it would also be politically risky while his campaign’s possible ties to the Russians are being probed.

Republicans appear ready to start pushing legislation through Congress reshaping the country’s health care system, but success is not guaranteed.


Vice President Mike Pence used a private e-mail account while he was governor of Indiana and it was compromised by a hack last year. Pence had criticized Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server as secretary of state.

The $200 million Trump International Hotel in Washington is the place to see and be seen for the Trump crowd, including lobbyists and politicos, despite ethics questions.

The Friday briefing

Here’s a transcript of the Friday briefing for the press by Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders aboard Air Force One on the way to Florida.

The weekly address

Here’s video of Trump’s weekly address, which he filmed Thursday aboard an aircraft carrier in Virginia. Wearing a flight jacket and squinting out from under a ball cap, he lauded the military and promised a massive buildup.

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